New report: International exchanges support key diplomacy recommendations

Public diplomacy and cultural exchanges support U.S. diplomacy goals of connecting with local environments and populations, forming meaningful personal relationships, and creating a vision of “America” that goes beyond the U.S. government, according to a report recently released by the Atlantic Council and the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

The report, entitled Diplomacy for a Diffuse World, provides an examination of global trends, along with “actionable recommendations to help build a more comprehensive and focused diplomatic strategy to better embrace the changes.” The report issues five recommendations:

1) Focus more on cities

The report notes that city-to-city connections, established through public diplomacy efforts such as Sister City connections, can support U.S. government efforts to better understand local environments, and better engage the population:

“Expanding America’s connections in foreign cities means American diplomacy must adopt a ‘whole of society’ approach through private and public-sector partnerships at the national and subnational levels. The U.S. diplomatic community must understand how American cities are linking with foreign cities, both formally (e.g., through mechanisms such as Sister Cities International) and otherwise.”

2) Leverage individual empowerment

To leverage individual empowerment, the U.S. should partner with organizations working in a variety of fields, including education, sustainability, and civic involvement, according to the report.

3) Maximize convening power

To maximize convening power, the report recommends that American diplomats utilize existing networks abroad, including exchange participants, to gain local perspective needed to support U.S. foreign policy goals:

“Americans already working, studying, or living abroad may be willing to serve on remote outreach teams to assist the American diplomatic community in understanding the local environment and engaging local populations.”

4) Use data strategically

Identifying local context and how to best inform and engage with specific populations, is important, the report suggests. These tools and data, however, “are no substitute for in-person engagement”:

“Attention is a precious commodity, and conversation is still the key to true engagement. Social media connects people in meaningful ways, but personal engagement remains the most effective means for genuine influence.”

5) Become strategic communications experts

The report advises that U.S. diplomats take advantage of existing American “brands” that resonate with individuals in certain areas:

“These brands include more than just corporate and commercial brands; …American individuals, institutions, and even public entities (e.g., the cities of Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago) often are positive global brands. Further, “America” itself is not synonymous with the U.S. government and should not be treated as such.”

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